Profile: Unigrid co-founder Adam Waldenberg
Craig Wilson from the Unigrid team interviews Adam Waldenberg and asks him some questions about his origins, motivations, and why he decided tackle the huge problems on the Internet that Unigrid attempts to solve.
What is your origin story? I.e. what interested you in technology?
My journey into computers started as a young child. Originally it was all about the games. I can still vividly remember Sim City running on my stepbrothers Amiga 500. I also loved adventure games and how they allowed you to enter and become part of a completely different world. Sierra games in particular, were favourites of mine, with Quest for Glory (called Hero’s Quest on the Amiga) etching a very special place in my childhood memories. Not speaking English natively, these games forced you, at a young age, to refine your English skills — improving your vocabulary and grammar.
As some of you may know; Sim City was the ancestor of all simulation games. When I saw it the first time, I could barely believe my eyes. For a nine-year-old kid in 1989 — it was like watching a magic act. I remember thinking — “there is a whole simulated world running inside that machine”.
This was absolute proof to me that computers were more than just a piece of circuitry — they were a tool where you could create magic and make things that never existed before. Naturally, I had to learn as much as I could about how these magical devices worked. Thus, when I was around ten years old I started playing around in Amiga Basic — the first programming language I ever learned.
The rest, as they say, is history.
When was the first time you used the Internet? How did you react to it?
My first contact with the Internet was some time during 1991 via dial-up modems and bulletin board systems. Surfing the world wide web and having personal Internet access was not yet publicly possible (at least not in Sweden). However, bulletin boards allowed you to have access to parts of the Internet — such as email and newsgroups.
A few times per day the bulletin board system would “sync up” your outgoing and incoming email and newsgroup subscriptions. At the time, this was already a revolution and made traditional mail correspondence completely obsolete. Your messages could, with ease, reach the other side of the world within hours. Using the same system, these bulletin boards also had “online” games (albeit with a slight delay) that you could play against other players all over the world.
While it was a lot of fun — it created a phone bill like you wouldn’t believe. Something that caused my parents to lose their temper — as they did not understand the social aspect or the fascination of this technology.
My first experience with the world wide web and public Internet access was sometime around 1994. I actually don’t remember the exact date, but I remember it was mind-blowing and a big step up from bulletin board systems.
Why do you enjoy the Internet?
It allows the whole world to connect in a way that is unprecedented. Never in human history has it been this easy to connect and communicate with others.
Ultimately, the Internet gives you a very real but false sense of freedom.
What kind of issues do you see with the internet?
The current Internet, while wonderful, has many problems. The amount of global surveillance is on the rise and people’s freedom on the Internet is constantly in question. Capitalist powers are now controlling a network that was original, designed to be shared, democratic, and open.
With so much of our traffic passing through and being dependent on data centers and equipment owned by these big corporations, we are slowly putting the entire infrastructure of the Internet under their complete control.
I believe that, in the same way, unhinged capitalism in society can be a threat to democracy and freedom — the same can be said about unhinged capitalism on the Internet. Therefore, we have to be careful and make sure we keep the Internet decentralized and in the control of the people — not big corporations.
Why are you building Unigrid?
The idea of Unigrid came about out of desperation. A desperate cry to break the current monopoly on the market. Back when I started my data center in Gothenburg, I quickly noticed how difficult it was to compete and keep my customers unreliant on the big cloud providers on the Internet. The fact that businesses are unable to compete on equal terms with these giant corporations on the Internet creates a distorted market where the big prey on the rest — a situation I believe we can remedy.
We live in a time where software has the ability to transform markets and our whole society. We have seen it many times; search engines, social media platforms, and other software solutions — mere pieces of information and logic have completely changed the way we interact and behave.
I believe it’s high time to push for another big leap in the evolution of the Internet.